Grand Hyatt in Taipei, this weekend marked the first time I knowingly stayed in a haunted hotel.
Located in Callicoon, New York, on the banks of the Delaware River, The Western Hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of Laura Darling Kahl. In 1921, she was shot to death on the front steps by her husband, the hotel's bartender. Her parents owned the hotel at the time. Ever since, sightings at the hotel
support the idea that her spirit lingers.
In operation since 1852, the Western has been the scene of not one, but two murders, including one most recent. On April 13th, 2008, at 12:30 in the morning, a bar patron and championship shooter began chatting with Joe Naughton, the Western's owner. Lori Schubeler, a waitress, leaned against the bar as Naughton showed off his collection of antique and personal firearms. While handling an unregistered, semi-automatic, .25-caliber handgun, Naughton accidentally discharged it. The bullet hit Schubeler in the aorta and lung, killing her.
None other than Joe Naughton met me at the door. He spent six months in prison and is still on probation for the shooting. He wanted the money up front, in cash. As he handed over the key, his oblique comment stuck with me. "The door opens out, so you're never trapped in the hotel." As if, for some, escaping might be desirable.
When we reached the room on the third floor, my son mentioned he had lots of books about ghosts. Mr. Naughton stopped. "Maybe I shouldnt' tell you," he said. "about Laura Kahl." He stopped again and shook his head.
Of course, we already knew, which was why he had the books on ghosts.
The thermometer read 85 degrees before we turned on the air conditioner. If ghosts produce cold spots, I welcomed dozens. I no longer hoped Ms. Kahl appeared for any other reason.
The slanted bed threatened to spill me on the floor. My back ached minutes after crawling in. On the plus side, I was afforded multiple opportunities to scan the room for ghosts as I woke up every half hour in discomfort.
No ghosts. No cold spots.
While the hotel added two spirits, it lost its liquor license. Fortunately, Callicoon Brewing Company opened a bar next door with ice cold drafts. The night was not a total loss!
On leaving the next morning, as we waved goodbye to Mr. Naughton, I spotted the most mysterious sign. Seems the Western is for sale.